Scores of Union Island residents flee wrath of Hurricane Beryl
Residents waiting to board the Jaden Sun to the mainland
July 5, 2024

Scores of Union Island residents flee wrath of Hurricane Beryl

by Christina Smith

When the Jaden Sun Fast Ferry arrived at the wharf at Union Island on Tuesday afternoon, scores of people with bags in hand rushed to board the vessel, anxious to escape the devastation from Hurricane Beryl.

The category four weather system wreaked havoc on the southern Grenadine island on July 2, 2024 and has left in its wake island-wide damage with 90 percent of roofs destroyed, utility infrastructure extensively damaged and many residents having lost most of their possessions. Businesses located on the waterfront were affected by storm surge, with up to three feet of water being deposited inside.

The contents of this supermarket were tossed about like trash

The announcement about the evacuation of affected persons was made around 10:00 a.m on Tuesday and saw representatives from the Ministry of National Mobilization, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), Special Services Unit (SSU), Roads, Buildings & General Services Authority (BRAGSA), making the trip to distribute relief supplies and conduct damage assessments.

Just over 300 persons were evacuated from the island on two vessels, the Jaden Sun and Gem Star, and Director of NEMO, Michelle Forbes, said the primary concern is providing relief supplies to affected residents in the Southern Grenadine islands.

“Yesterday [July 2] we had about 300 persons evacuated from Union Island. Both boats were packed. A lot of the persons who came up initially are originally from mainland so they have gone to their home. But some, when they go to their homes they may realize it is gone so they will go to the shelters.”

A view of a cluster of houses in Clifton, Union Island

Forbes said the government has been trying to source accommodation for evacuees but most guest houses are booked out because of Vincymas and the T20 World Cup cricket.

“We are working with the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Authority to try to get guest houses to place some of the families because we know it is going to be long-term. Unfortunately because of the cricket and the carnival, we really can’t find any space. So we have to place them elsewhere.”

Relief supplies which were sent down to the southern Grenadines included water, tarpaulin, tents and non-perishable food items. Forbes also said support is coming from different Caribbean countries.

Union Island resident gingerly makes his way over twisted galvanise as he surveys the damage

“We have the first relief vessel coming back from Antigua and St Kitts arriving today and they are also bringing about 40 to 45 men from the RSS and the police force, mainly from the northern part of the Caribbean.”

Damage assessment began on July 2, but was interrupted due to the passage of a tropical wave on July 3. A Rapid Needs Assessment team coordinated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) also visited Union Island to assess the damage.